The temporal choreography of the yo-yo movement of getting spaghetti into the mouth by the head-fixed mouse.


Department of Neuroscience, Canadian Centre of Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]


There is debate over whether single-handed eating movements, reaching for food and withdrawing the hand to place the food in the mouth, originated in the primate lineage or whether they originated in phylogenetically-earlier Euarchontoglires. Most spontaneous hand use in eating by the laboratory mouse (Mus domestica) involves both hands, and a central question is the extent to which the movements are symmetric. Here we describe an asymmetry of spontaneous single hand use by the head-fixed mouse in making the yo-yo hand movement of removing and replacing a piece of pasta (spaghetti) in the mouth for eating. We also describe the problem/solution of placing into the mouth the end of a held item that protrudes at some distance from the hand. Pasta-eating proceeds in bouts, and a bout starts with raising the hands, which are holding a piece of pasta, to place one end of the pasta in the mouth for biting. A bout ends with lowering the hands, still holding the pasta stem, while the pasta morsel that has been bitten off is chewed. Hand-lowering after the pasta is removed from the mouth is slow, concurrent and symmetric, both when the pasta is held by both hands and when it is held in one hand. Hand-raising to place the pasta in the mouth is fast, consecutive and asymmetric, both when the pasta is held in both hands and when it is held in one hand. Frame-by-frame analyses of the video record combined with kinematic analyses show that a preferred single hand not only directs one end of the pasta to the mouth but also readjusts the trajectory of the pasta if it misses the mouth. The specialized use of a single hand by the mouse, even when the hands are bilaterally engaged, and the corrective asymmetric movements with which one hand adjusts the pasta's trajectory with the other hand playing a supporting role, is discussed in relation to the idea that hand preference, specialization, and dexterity have somatosensory and preprimate origins.


Asymmetry of pasta eating in the head-fixed mouse,Evolution of skilled hand movement,Head-fixed hand movements,Skilled hand use in mice,Skilled hand use in rodents,

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